December 16, 2014 — Most Americans don’t know that the federal government has a vaccine injury compensation program, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The report (PDF) notes that administrators who oversee the program have “acknowledged being criticized for years for nor adequately promoting public awareness.”
Victims of vaccine injuries have strict time-limits for filing a claim, usually within two years. Without awareness of the program, many individuals who might otherwise qualify could be denied due to statutory deadlines.
Another problem is a backlog of cases. Until 2010, the court was flooded with thousands of claims seeking compensation. All of these claims were denied after the study linking intellectual disabilities with the MMR vaccine was retracted.
The court is supposed to make a decision on every case within 240 days. However, due to the backlog, most cases take at least 2.5 years.
Last month, an investigation by the Associated Press found that just 7% of 7,876 claims met the 240-day target, and the average case takes at least 3 years.
The $3.5 billion compensation program is funded by a $0.75 excise tax on all vaccines. However, the science is clear on only 9 out of 144 vaccine-induced injury claims, leaving the burden on the victim to prove that their injury was likely caused by the vaccine.
The court is designed with relaxed standards of evidence and a burden of proof that is easier to achieve than with traditional civil lawsuits. However, this does not mean it is easy to make a claim.
The investigation also highlighted examples where the government fought tooth-and-nail to deny claims:
“Lawmakers designed vaccine court to favor payouts, but the government fights legitimate claims and fails its obligation to publicize the court, worried that if they concede a vaccine caused harm, the public will react by skipping shots.”
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